The Man Who Survived Two Atomic Bombs

The Man Who Survived Two Atomic Bombs

Tsutomu Yamaguchi was preparing to leave Hiroshima when the atomic bomb fell. The 29-year-old naval engineer was on a three-month-long business trip for his employer, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and August 6, 1945, was supposed to be his last day in the city. He and his colleagues had spent the summer working long hours on the design for a new oil tanker, and he was looking forward to finally returning home to his wife, Hisako, and their infant son, Katsutoshi.

Around 8:15 that morning, Yamaguchi was walking to Mitsubishi’s shipyard a final time when he heard the drone of an aircraft overhead. Looking skyward, he saw an American B-29 bomber soar over the city and drop a small object connected to a parachute. Suddenly, the sky erupted in a blaze of light, which Yamaguchi later described as resembling the “the lightning of a huge magnesium flare.” He had just enough time to dive into a ditch before an ear-splitting boom rang out. The shock wave that accompanied it sucked Yamaguchi from the ground, spun him in the air like a tornado and sent him hurtling into a nearby potato patch. He’d been less than two miles from ground zero.

“I didn’t know what had happened,” he later told the British newspaper The Times. “I think I fainted for a while. When I opened my eyes, everything was dark, and I couldn’t see much. It was like the start of a film at the cinema, before the picture has begun when the blank frames are just flashing up without any sound.” The atomic blast had kicked up enough dust and debris to nearly blot out the morning sun. Yamaguchi was surrounded by torrents of falling ash, and he could see a mushroom cloud of fire rising in the sky over Hiroshima. His face and forearms had been badly burned, and both his eardrums were ruptured.

PHOTOS: Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Before and After the Bombs

Yamaguchi wandered in a daze toward what remained of the Mitsubishi shipyard. There, he found his coworkers Akira Iwanaga and Kuniyoshi Sato, both of whom had survived the blast. After spending a restless night in an air raid shelter, the men awoke on August 7 and made their way toward the train station, which they had heard was somehow still operating. The journey took them through a nightmarish landscape of still-flickering fires, shattered buildings and charred and melted corpses lining the streets. Many of the city’s bridges had been turned into twisted wreckage, and at one river crossing, Yamaguchi was forced to swim through a layer of floating dead bodies. Upon reaching the station, he boarded a train full of burned and bewildered passengers and settled in for the overnight ride to his hometown of Nagasaki.

While Yamaguchi returned to his wife and child, the whole world turned its attention toward Hiroshima. Sixteen hours after the explosion, President Harry Truman gave a speech that revealed the existence of the atom bomb for the first time. “It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe,” he said. “The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East.” A B-29 bomber called the “Enola Gay” had taken off from the Pacific island of Tinian and flown some 1,500 miles before detonating a bomb known as “Little Boy” in the skies over Hiroshima. The blast had immediately killed some 80,000 people, and tens of thousands more would perish in the weeks that followed. Truman warned in his statement that if Japan did not surrender, it could expect “a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.”

Yamaguchi arrived in Nagasaki early in the morning on August 8 and limped to the hospital. The doctor who treated him was a former school classmate, but the blackened burns on Yamaguchi’s hands and face were so severe the man didn’t recognize him at first. Neither did his family. When he returned home afterwards, feverish and swaddled in bandages, his mother accused him of being a ghost.

Despite being on the verge of collapse, Yamaguchi dragged himself out of bed on the morning of August 9 and reported for work at Mitsubishi’s Nagasaki office. Around 11 a.m., he found himself in a meeting with a company director who demanded a full report on Hiroshima. The engineer recounted the scattered events of August 6—the blinding light, the deafening boom—but his superior accused him of being mad. How could a single bomb destroy an entire city? Yamaguchi was trying to explain himself when the landscape outside suddenly exploded with another iridescent white flash. Yamaguchi dropped to the ground just seconds before the shock wave shattered the office windows and sent broken glass and debris careening through the room. “I thought the mushroom cloud had followed me from Hiroshima,” he later told the newspaper The Independent.

READ MORE: Hiroshima, Then Nagasaki: Why the US Deployed the Second A-Bomb

The atom bomb that hit Nagasaki was even more powerful than the one dropped on Hiroshima, but as Yamaguchi would later learn, the city’s hilly landscape and a reinforced stairwell had combined to muffle the blast inside the office. His bandages were blown off, and he was hit by yet another surge of cancer-causing radiation, but he emerged relatively unhurt. For the second time in three days, he’d had the misfortune of being within two miles of a nuclear explosion. For the second time, he’d been fortunate enough to survive.

After fleeing from the skeleton of the Mitsubishi building, Yamaguchi rushed through a bomb-ravaged Nagasaki to check on his wife and son. He feared the worst when he saw a section of his house had been reduced to rubble, but he soon found both had sustained only superficial injuries. His wife had been out looking for burn ointment for her husband, and when the explosion came, she and the baby had taken refuge in a tunnel. It was yet another strange twist of fate. If Yamaguchi hadn’t been hurt at Hiroshima, his family might have been killed at Nagasaki.

READ MORE: Harry Truman and Hiroshima: Inside His Tense A-Bomb Vigil

In the days the followed, Yamaguchi’s double-dose of radiation took its toll. His hair fell out, the wounds on his arms turned gangrenous, and he began vomiting incessantly. He was still languishing in a bomb shelter with his family on August 15, when Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced the country’s surrender in a radio broadcast. “I had no feeling about it,” Yamaguchi later told The Times. “I was neither sorry nor glad. I was seriously ill with a fever, eating almost nothing, hardly even drinking. I thought that I was about to cross to the other side.”

Yet unlike so many victims of radiation exposure, Yamaguchi slowly recovered and went on to live a relatively normal life. He served as a translator for the U.S. armed forces during their occupation of Japan, and later taught school before resuming his engineering career at Mitsubishi. He and his wife even had two more children in the 1950s, both of them girls. Yamaguchi dealt with the horrific memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by writing poetry, but he avoided discussing his experiences publicly until the 2000s, when he released a memoir and became part of the anti-atomic weapons movement. He later journeyed to New York in 2006 and spoke about nuclear disarmament before the United Nations. “Having experienced atomic bombings twice and survived, it is my destiny to talk about it,” he said in his speech.

Tsutomu Yamaguchi wasn’t the only person to endure two atomic blasts. His coworkers Akira Iwanaga and Kuniyoshi Sato were also in Nagasaki when the second bomb fell, as was Shigeyoshi Morimoto, a kite maker who had miraculously survived Hiroshima despite being only a half-mile from ground zero. All told, some 165 people may have experienced both attacks, yet Yamaguchi was the only person officially recognized by the Japanese government as a “nijyuu hibakusha,” or “twice-bombed person.” He finally won the distinction in 2009, only a year before he died at the age of 93.

READ MORE: 'Father of the Atomic Bomb' Was Blacklisted for Opposing H-Bomb


“Lucky” Yamaguchi: The Man Who Survived Both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atomic Bombs

Atomic bombs exploded into chaotic destruction just two times in history: first on August 6, 1945, in Hiroshima and again on August 9 of that same year in Nagasaki. When the United States unleashed those two bombs upon Japan’s cities, the international community saw destruction unlike anything prior. More than 100,000 civilians died in the wake of the explosions, and many more fell ill or died in the weeks, months, and years that followed. Yet perhaps the most surprising legacy of those two atomic bombs is that both happened to miss one man. Tsutomu Yamaguchi was present in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the nuclear weapons detonated, yet somehow survived. This miraculous man, who earned the nickname “Lucky,” lived a long life as the only Japanese citizen recognized as a survivor of both terrifying explosions.


The Man Who Survived Two Atomic Bomb Blasts

Tsutomu Yamaguchi survived not one, but both atomic bombs dropped by the United States on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Yamaguchi was officially granted &ldquohibakusha&rdquo (&ldquoatomic bomb victim&rdquo) status by the Japanese government in 1957, formally recognising him as a survivor of the Nagasaki bombing. In January 2009, Yamaguchi applied for &ldquonijá¿¡ hibakusha&rdquo (&ldquodouble atomic bomb victim&rdquo) status, and in March 2009, became the only officially recognised double survivor of both atomic bombings.

Tsutomu Yamaguchi was born on March 16, 1916, in Nagasaki. He joined Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in the 1930s, where he worked as a draughtsman. On the morning of August 6, 1945, Yamaguchi and two of his work colleagues, Akira Iwanaga and Kuniyoshi Sato were preparing to leave Hiroshima, where they had been working for the previous three months, designing an oil tanker. Firstly, they had to go to the Mitsubishi shipyard, prior to taking the train from Hiroshima to Nagasaki. While on the bus, Yamaguchi realised that he had forgotten his travel permit at his dormitory, so got off and made his way back to collect it. He took the next bus back and then began to walk the remainder of his journey to the shipyard.

Overhead, he heard the sound a single plane in the sky. It was an American B-29 bomber, the &ldquoEnola Gay,&rdquo named after its pilot, Colonel Paul Tibbets, mother. He looked up and saw the plane drop two parachutes. There was an intense flash and Yamaguchi&rsquos naval air raid training immediately kicked in. He dove to the ground and rolled into an irrigation ditch, before locking his fingers over his eyes and plugging his ears with his thumbs. Seconds later, the 13-kiloton uranium atomic bomb, &ldquoLittle Boy,&rdquo exploded. The force of the shockwave sent Yamaguchi whirling through the air before he crashed to the ground in a potato field.

Australian Doctor

Yamaguchi had been less than two miles from the epicentre of the explosion. When he regained consciousness, he could see &ldquoa mushroomed pillar of fire,&rdquo rising high up into the sky. Although it was morning, the ash and smoke from the raging fires darkened the sky. Dazed, Yamaguchi found a dug-out bomb shelter two hundred yards away and took refuge alongside two students who were sheltering there. They pointed out his injuries to him and Yamaguchi only then realised that his face and arms had been badly burned and that both of his eardrums had been ruptured by the explosion.

Yamaguchi stayed there for a couple of hours, recovering from the shock and trauma he had endured, before setting out to the Mitsubishi shipyard, where he met his colleagues, Iwanga and Sato. All three decided to cross the city and make their way back to their dormitory. On the way, they encountered the utter devastation of the aftermath of the nuclear explosion.

Buildings burned and charred bodies lined the streets. Yamaguchi recalled seeing dying children, their hair burned, completely naked, not crying but laying in silence, along the streets. The only sound he remembered was of the city burning. At one point, Yamaguchi, Iwanga and Sato had to wade through a river which teemed with corpses. It was like Hell on Earth. They found that their dormitory had been destroyed by the explosion so settled for the night in an air raid shelter, before taking the train to Nagasaki.


LATER YEARS:

Yamaguchi would later become a spokesperson against nuclear warfare.

Tsutomu Yamaguchi: “I can’t understand why the world cannot understand the agony of the nuclear bombs. How can they keep developing these weapons?”

Citation: Wikipedia

In 2009, Tsutomu Yamaguchi officially became the only person recognized by the Japanese government as a survivor of both bombings.

Although there were notably over 70 other persons that survived both bombings, Yamaguchi was the only officially recognized survivor.

On 4th January 2010, he died of stomach cancer. It is unclear wether the stomach cancer was due to the 1945 incidents.

In 2010, the BBC ventured into dark humour by featuring Yamaguchi in a comedy episode, referring to him as “the unluckiest man in the world”.


The Man Who Survived Two Atomic Bombs - HISTORY

Tsutomu Yamaguchi died from stomach cancer. The cancer part perhaps isn’t surprising given that Yamaguchi is currently the only person officially recognized by the Japanese government as having lived through the atomic bombings of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (Note: There were actually well over a 100 or so others as well, perhaps as many as 165 they just have never been officially recognized by the Japanese government to date.) What is surprising, given that history, is that Yamaguchi avoided the disease for so long, not dying until January 4, 2010, at the age of 93.

At the age of 29, Yamaguchi was on his way back home from a three month long business trip to Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. At the time, he was an engineer for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries- specifically, working as an oil tanker designer. On his way to the train station to head back to his home in Nagasaki, he noticed he’d forgotten his travel permit and went back to get it while his colleagues, Akira Iwanaga and Kuniyoshi Sato, went on.

He picked up his pass and was on his way back to the station when, at 8:15 a.m., he saw a bomber flying over the city and “two small parachutes”, then a rush of blinding light, sound, wind, and heat knocked him to the ground. Mr. Yamaguchi had the misfortune of being approximately 3 km from a nuclear blast. The immediate effects of this were his ear drums rupturing, temporarily blindness, and burns over much of his upper body.

After his initial disorientation, and in spite of his injuries, Tsutomu managed to make his way to an air-raid shelter where he met up with his two colleagues who had also survived the blast. He spent the night in the shelter and in the morning he and his co-workers headed back to Nagasaki via train as originally planned. When he arrived, he received bandage treatments from a local hospital, and even felt well enough to report for work on August the 9th, just 3 days later… (Now I feel like a bit of a pansy about taking a full week off while I had the flu.)

Of course, Yamaguchi had to explain his burns to his coworkers. His boss was in disbelief over his claim that it was a single explosion that destroyed much of Hiroshima. “You’re an engineer,” he said to Tsutomu, “calculate it…how could one bomb destroy an entire city?” The boss spoke too soon. According to Yamaguchi, during this conversation the air-raid sirens went off and then, once again, he saw a blinding white light. He dropped to the floor immediately he was familiar with the drill. Yamaguchi stated, “I thought the mushroom cloud had followed me from Hiroshima.”

Both bombs exploded near the city centers and both, interestingly enough, were just about 3 kilometers away from Tsutomu’s position at the time. Despite this explosion being slightly more powerful than the one at Hiroshima (21 kilotons vs. 16 kilotons at Hiroshima), thanks to the city’s uneven terrain and the fact that many parts of the city were divided by water, which prevented the extensive fire damage that happened in Hiroshima, there wasn’t nearly the amount of overall infrastructure damage. Yamaguchi himself experienced no immediate injury from this second explosion, though of course was exposed to another high dose of ionizing radiation and medical supplies to treat his existing burns were now in short supply.

Interestingly, Yamaguchi almost didn’t have to go through this ordeal twice. Nagasaki was not the original target for the second nuke- that was the city of Kokura. However, thanks to a cloud covering Kokura when the bomber arrived, they had to divert to a secondary target, Nagasaki, as the mission stipulated that they were not to drop the bomb unless they had a visual of the target. When the bomber arrived at Nagasaki, they also found significant cloud cover, but because they were low on fuel, it was not possible to divert to another target, so they made their run anyways, despite their orders. When they got close, just before releasing, they did have a brief visual to confirm their location before dropping the bomb. Had they had more fuel or there not been a cloud cover over Kokura, Yamaguchi and a not insignificant portion of the Japanese population would have had their lives drastically changed, some for the good and some for the bad.

Surprisingly, unlike so many others who experienced even just one of the blasts, Yamaguchi went on to live a long and productive life with the only major permanent physical health problem as the result of the bombings being the loss of hearing in his left ear, though the burns took some time to heal he temporarily lost all his hair and he experienced a great deal of psychological trauma, as one might expect. He and his wife, Hisako, even went on to have children, who all turned out perfectly healthy, which at least at the time, not so much today, was thought to be something of a miracle considering both parents had been exposed to such high levels of ionizing radiation.

Yamaguchi’s wife lived to 88, dying of kidney and liver cancer. Yamaguchi himself lived to the ripe old age of 93 years old and for most of his life made little mention of the fact that he’d been present at both bombings. He initially just registered as a survivor of Nagasaki. According to one of his daughters, his reasoning for downplaying this, and not registering as a survivor of Hiroshima as well, was his robust health through most of his life. He felt it would be disrespectful to the many thousands who were not so lucky, health-wise.

Once in his 80’s, he changed his stance, breaking his silence on the matter and officially applying for recognition as a survivor of both blasts, which was granted by the Japanese government in 2009, shortly before his death. He then dedicated the rest of his life to campaigning for the disarmament of nuclear weapons from all nations. He even wrote a book outlining his experience, which included many poems he wrote about the event (Raft of Corpses).

Despite it all, Yamaguchi considered himself lucky. As he said shortly before his death, “I could have died on either of those days. Everything that follows is a bonus.”

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The Man Who Survived Two Atomic Bombs

Some 260,000 people survived the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II, but Japanese engineer Tsutomu Yamaguchi was one of the very few who endured the horror of both blasts and lived to the tell the tale.

Tsutomu Yamaguchi was preparing to leave Hiroshima when the atomic bomb fell. The 29-year-old naval engineer was on a three-month-long business trip for his employer, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and August 6, 1945, was supposed to be his last day in the city. He and his colleagues had spent the summer working long hours on the design for a new oil tanker, and he was looking forward to finally returning home to his wife, Hisako, and their infant son, Katsutoshi.

Tsutomu Yamaguchi (Credit: Jemal Countess/WireImage)

Around 8:15 that morning, Yamaguchi was walking to Mitsubishi’s shipyard a final time when he heard the drone of an aircraft overhead. Looking skyward, he saw an American B-29 bomber soar over the city and drop a small object connected to a parachute. Suddenly, the sky erupted in a blaze of light, which Yamaguchi later described as resembling the “the lightning of a huge magnesium flare.” He had just enough time to dive into a ditch before an ear-splitting boom rang out. The shock wave that accompanied it sucked Yamaguchi from the ground, spun him in the air like a tornado and sent him hurtling into a nearby potato patch. He’d been less than two miles from ground zero.

“I didn’t know what had happened,” he later told the British newspaper The Times. “I think I fainted for a while. When I opened my eyes, everything was dark, and I couldn’t see much. It was like the start of a film at the cinema, before the picture has begun when the blank frames are just flashing up without any sound.” The atomic blast had kicked up enough dust and debris to nearly blot out the morning sun. Yamaguchi was surrounded by torrents of falling ash, and he could see a mushroom cloud of fire rising in the sky over Hiroshima. His face and forearms had been badly burned, and both his eardrums were ruptured.

The Hiroshima Chamber of Industry and Commerce was the only building remotely close to standing near the center of the atomic bomb blast of August 6, 1945. It was left unrepaired as a reminder of the event.

Yamaguchi wandered in a daze toward what remained of the Mitsubishi shipyard. There, he found his coworkers Akira Iwanaga and Kuniyoshi Sato, both of whom had survived the blast. After spending a restless night in an air raid shelter, the men awoke on August 7 and made their way toward the train station, which they had heard was somehow still operating. The journey took them through a nightmarish landscape of still-flickering fires, shattered buildings and charred and melted corpses lining the streets. Many of the city’s bridges had been turned into twisted wreckage, and at one river crossing, Yamaguchi was forced to swim through a layer of floating dead bodies. Upon reaching the station, he boarded a train full of burned and bewildered passengers and settled in for the overnight ride to his hometown of Nagasaki.

While Yamaguchi returned to his wife and child, the whole world turned its attention toward Hiroshima. Sixteen hours after the explosion, President Harry Truman gave a speech that revealed the existence of the atom bomb for the first time. “It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe,” he said. “The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East.” A B-29 bomber called the “Enola Gay” had taken off from the Pacific island of Tinian and flown some 1,500 miles before detonating a bomb known as “Little Boy” in the skies over Hiroshima. The blast had immediately killed some 80,000 people, and tens of thousands more would perish in the weeks that followed. Truman warned in his statement that if Japan did not surrender, it could expect “a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.”


Yamaguchi arrived in Nagasaki early in the morning on August 8 and limped to the hospital. The doctor who treated him was a former school classmate, but the blackened burns on Yamaguchi’s hands and face were so severe the man didn’t recognize him at first. Neither did his family. When he returned home afterwards, feverish and swaddled in bandages, his mother accused him of being a ghost

Despite being on the verge of collapse, Yamaguchi dragged himself out of bed on the morning of August 9 and reported for work at Mitsubishi’s Nagasaki office. Around 11 a.m., he found himself in a meeting with a company director who demanded a full report on Hiroshima. The engineer recounted the scattered events of August 6—the blinding light, the deafening boom—but his superior accused him of being mad. How could a single bomb destroy an entire city? Yamaguchi was trying to explain himself when the landscape outside suddenly exploded with another iridescent white flash. Yamaguchi dropped to the ground just seconds before the shock wave shattered the office windows and sent broken glass and debris careening through the room. “I thought the mushroom cloud had followed me from Hiroshima,” he later told the newspaper The Independent.

The reinforced concrete buildings of the Nagasaki Medical College hospital were among the only ones that remained standing after the U.S. dropped its second atomic bomb on August 9, 1945. The hospital was located 800 meters from ground zero of the atomic bomb explosion.

The atom bomb that hit Nagasaki was even more powerful than the one dropped on Hiroshima, but as Yamaguchi would later learn, the city’s hilly landscape and a reinforced stairwell had combined to muffle the blast inside the office. His bandages were blown off, and he was hit by yet another surge of cancer-causing radiation, but he emerged relatively unhurt. For the second time in three days, he’d had the misfortune of being within two miles of a nuclear explosion. For the second time, he’d been fortunate enough to survive.

After fleeing from the skeleton of the Mitsubishi building, Yamaguchi rushed through a bomb-ravaged Nagasaki to check on his wife and son. He feared the worst when he saw a section of his house had been reduced to rubble, but he soon found both had sustained only superficial injuries. His wife had been out looking for burn ointment for her husband, and when the explosion came, she and the baby had taken refuge in a tunnel. It was yet another strange twist of fate. If Yamaguchi hadn’t been hurt at Hiroshima, his family might have been killed at Nagasaki.

October 5, 1945. Japanese soldiers survey the damage in Nagasaki, two months after the atomic bomb was dropped over the city.

In the days the followed, Yamaguchi’s double-dose of radiation took its toll. His hair fell out, the wounds on his arms turned gangrenous, and he began vomiting incessantly. He was still languishing in a bomb shelter with his family on August 15, when Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced the country’s surrender in a radio broadcast. “I had no feeling about it,” Yamaguchi later told The Times. “I was neither sorry nor glad. I was seriously ill with a fever, eating almost nothing, hardly even drinking. I thought that I was about to cross to the other side.”


The Whole Bushel

It’s extremely unfortunate to be caught up in one atomic attack, let alone two, which is why it’s amazing how Tsutomu Yamaguchi lived to tell the tale. At the time, Yamaguchi was a 29-year-old naval engineer, working away from home manufacturing a new oil tanker for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. But, on the morning of August 6, 1945, he witnessed an overhead B-29 bomber eject a tiny object.

He soon realized it was a deadly weapon when white light burst open into the sky, and the bellowing sound from the explosion erupted. Luckily, Yamaguchi was able to throw himself into a nearby ditch, but the shockwaves still hurled him into the air, and slung him into a field of potatoes. After regaining consciousness, he discovered a huge mushroom cloud above Hiroshima, as well as severe burns to his face and forearms.

After spending a night in an air raid shelter with two colleagues on August 7, he made an eventful journey to a local train station. Throughout the journey, Yamaguchi observed burning buildings, destroyed bridges, and scores of corpses in the roads. Eventually, he managed to board the train back to Nagasaki and was accompanied by a plethora of burnt passengers.

Upon return to his wife and child, it emerged that the bomb, which was labeled as ‘Little Boy’, obliterated roughly 80,000 people on impact, and plenty more in the aftermath. Shortly after, President Harry Truman, insinuated that if Japan didn’t surrender, they should expect further atomic attacks.

Of course, Japan didn’t surrender. So, as he arrived for work on August 9 at Mitsubishi’s Nagasaki office, while burnt and bandaged up, another flash of light and another deafening boom emerged. It was later reported that Yamaguchi thought the mushroom cloud had followed him from Hiroshima. But, it hadn’t, and the ‘Little Man’ which landed on Nagasaki was much stronger and toxic.

Now, although he survived both colossal nuclear explosions, the radiation which was emitted started to have an impact. His hair started to fall out, the wounds transitioned into gangrene, and he was vomiting unceasingly. However, he made a full recovery, enjoyed a fruitful career, and had two more children with his wife.

Yamaguchi didn’t start publicly speaking about the events until the 2000s, as he joined the anti-atomic weapons force to try and ensure it never happens again. In his speech in New York back in 2006, he stated, “Having experienced atomic bombings twice and survived, it is my destiny to talk about it.”

Despite Tsutomu Yamaguchi being the only recognized ‘nijyuu hibakusha’, which translates as ‘twice-bombed person’, there were actually 165 survivors of both attacks. Moreover, in 2009 he received the distinction, but just a year later at the age of 93, he sadly passed away.


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Merely three kilometres from the drop point, Yamaguchi received direct exposure to the radiations and sustained burns on his body. Source: Wikimedia Commons

As fate would have it, Yamaguchi, after resting for the night in an air raid shelter started his journey towards Nagasaki, his hometown where his wife and an infant son was waiting. He had no idea that he was to face another atomic bomb that would also be waiting for him in Nagasaki.

As he was explaining his ordeal at Mitsubishi’s Nagasaki office to his boss, on August 9, 1945, a more powerful plutonium implosion-type bomb named Fat Man brought devastation to the city. “I thought the mushroom cloud had followed me from Hiroshima,” he later told the newspaper The Independent.

His wife and the kid also somehow survived the bombing. But, the double exposure to radiation took its toll on his health and he fell seriously in the following days. Yamaguchi slowly recovered and went on to live a relatively normal life.

Yamaguchi refused to talk about the experience much of his life, opening up only in the 2000s when he wrote a memoir and spoke about nuclear disarmament before the United Nations.

A year before his death in 2010, he was officially recognised by the Japanese government as “nijyuu hibakusha”, or “twice-bombed person”. Though there are other records and testimonials which say there were up to 165 people who survived both the attack, Yamaguchi remains the only one recognised by the government.

You can watch his half-an-hour testimonial of the bombings following this link.


Man who survived 2 atom bombs dies

Tokyo, Japan (CNN) -- The only man recognized as a survivor of both atom bombs dropped in Japan at the end of World War II has died.

Tsutomu Yamaguchi died Monday after a battle with stomach cancer. He was 93.

He had long been a certified "hibakusha," or radiation survivor, of the August 9, 1945, atomic bombing in Nagasaki. In March 2009, the Japanese government confirmed that he had also survived Hiroshima three days earlier.

On that day, the U.S. B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb nicknamed "Little Boy," which exploded over Hiroshima at 8:15 in the morning.

Yamaguchi happened to be in the city on a business trip for his employer, Mitsubishi Shipyard.

Many years later, he recalled the bombing in a story that appeared in the British newspaper The Times.

"It was very clear, a really fine day, nothing unusual about it at all. I was in good spirits," he said. "As I was walking along, I heard the sound of a plane, just one. I looked up into they sky and saw the B-29, and it dropped two parachutes. I was looking up into the sky at them, and suddenly . it was like a flash of magnesium, a great flash in the sky, and I was blown over."

Badly burned, Yamaguchi returned home to Nagasaki only to experience horror again.

"My double radiation exposure is now an official government record," Yamaguchi told reporters last year after his official recognition. "It can tell the younger generation the horrifying history of the atomic bombings even after I die."

About 140,000 people perished in Hiroshima and an additional 70,000 in Nagasaki. Many of those who survived suffered a lifetime of radiation-related health problems, including cancers. Yamaguchi lost his hearing in his left ear in the blasts, and suffered from acute leukemia, cataracts and other bomb-related illnesses in subsequent years.

Yamaguchi spoke publicly about his experiences and appealed for the abolition of nuclear weapons at venues such as the United Nations.

He was visited in his hospital room in Nagasaki last month by filmmaker James Cameron, who wanted to discuss ideas for a film about nuclear weapons, the Japanese newspaper Mainichi reported.


The messages talk about a Man who is claimed to have survived both the Atomic Bomb Blasts that happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki Cities of Japan in 1945. Yes, it is a fact, the fortunate (or unfortunate) man is Tsutomu Yamaguchi.

Tsutomu Yamaguchi Two Atomic Blasts of Japan in 1945 Atomic Blasts of Japan in 1945

In Japan, the people who have suffered the effects of both the atomic bombings of 1945 are known as Niju Hibakusha. In 2006, a documentary called “Twice Bombed, Twice Survived: The Doubly Atomic Bombed of Hiroshima and Nagasaki” was produced, which in fact found 165 cases of undocumented people who were victims of both the bombings. This production was even screened at the United Nations. However, on 24 March 2009, the Japanese government officially recognized Tsutomu Yamaguchi as a double hibakusha, who survived both the World War II atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Victims of Atomic Blasts of Japan in 1945 Atomic Blasts of Japan in 1945 Victim of Atomic Blasts of Japan in 1945

About Tsutomu Yamaguchi

In 1945, Tsutomu Yamaguchi was a 29 year old (born on 16 March 1916) engineer working for Mitsubishi Heavy Industry, and was dispatched to Hiroshima to help design a new cargo ship. On 6th August 1945, when a US B-29 bomber plane dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima city, Yamaguchi suffered serious burns to his upper body and spent the night in the city. He was confirmed to be 3 kilometers from ground zero in Hiroshima when the bomb was detonated. He survived it, and eventually managed to get himself onto a train to return back to his hometown of Nagasaki on 8th August 1945 – a day before the second atomic bomb was dropped in Nagasaki. Here, Yamaguchi was exposed to residual radiation while searching for his relatives.

Tsutomu Yamaguchi

This way Tsutomu Yamaguchi became the first man to be recognized as the survivor of both atomic bomb blasts in Japan during World War II. The video is a news report where Yamaguchi talks about his experience during the dual bombing. However, on 4 January 2010 Tsutomu Yamaguchi died of stomach cancer, at the age of 93.

About Hiroshima and Nagasaki Bombing

The atomic bombings in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were conducted by the United States of America in 1945. This was during the final stages of World War II, and till date, these two events are the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

This way Japan became the only country to have suffered two atomic bomb attacks, which killed about 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 70,000 in Nagasaki, leaving many more people suffering from the after effects of radiation. The pictures in Image Gallery show a glimpse of this human-made disaster. Tsutomu Yamaguchi recalls about the incidents, not understanding whether he was lucky to survive the bombings, or unfortunate to have faced the misery and suffering of millions of people. He wishes and hopes that world will never use such nuclear weapons again. Tsutomu Yamaguchi quotes saying:

“The only people who should be allowed to govern countries with nuclear weapons are mothers, those who are still breast-feeding their babies.”


Naval engineer Tsutomu Yamaguchi was working in the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945. While the war raged in the Pacific, he had managed to keep busy designing ships and oil tankers for the country. Just as he finished a three-month project, and was preparing to head home to see his wife and daughter, he noticed a plane flying overhead. Something fell from the plane. Slowed by a parachute, it was an atomic bomb.

Yamaguchi jumped into a nearby ditch as the bomb exploded in the sky. The aircraft that dropped the device, the Enola Gay, had targeted the city just two miles from where Yamaguchi took cover. The blast sent him spinning through the air, and he landed in a nearby potato patch. When he opened his eyes, he couldn’t see anything—the world was completely black.

The blast hadn’t blinded him, but instead blotted out the sun with an enormous cloud of dust. Yamaguchi’s arms and face were badly burned and his eardrums were ruptured. As the debris cleared, he saw a towering mushroom cloud over the city.

Getting Home

The blast had immediately killed some 80,000 people, but after running into some fellow survivors in the Mitsubishi shipyard, Yamaguchi made his way to an air raid shelter. In the morning, he heard that the train station had somehow survived and that people were making a mad dash for it, hoping to escape the city.

Still injured, he made his way through a city of crumbling buildings, fires, and bodies melted to the streets. At one point, he had to swim across a river filled with burned corpses. Yamaguchi eventually made it to the train and settled in for the night as it took him to his hometown of Nagasaki.

Countdown

When Yamaguchi arrived home, his wife and daughter didn’t even recognize the burned man standing in front of them. His wife knew her husband had been in Hiroshima, and thought his bandaged figure might even be a ghost. After finally receiving medical attention, he collapsed in bed for the night.

The next morning, Yamaguchi reported for work like any other day, but his superiors sat him down to debrief him on the events in Hiroshima. He explained what he saw, but his bosses didn’t believe him. They thought there was no way a single bomb could cause so much destruction.

It was during this meeting that the sky once again lit up with fire. The building was destroyed and his bandages were blown away, but—once again—he survived. Worried for his family, Yamaguchi rushed home. Thankfully they were just as lucky.

Aftermath

Though Yamaguchi is the only officially recognized double-survivor of atomic bombings, as many as 165 people experienced both atomic weapons firsthand. Despite becoming sick with radiation poisoning, Tsutomu Yamaguchi survived until 2010, eventually becoming a vocal proponent of nuclear disarmament.


Watch the video: How It Works - The Atomic Bomb